EducationThe Examiner

New, Expanded Programs Part of Mt. Pleasant’s $79.7M School Budget

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Mount Pleasant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Peter Giarrizzo

For many school districts, the 2024 budget season was a challenging one, with inflation putting pressure on spending plans constrained by the tax cap and uncertainty over state aid.

Despite the hurdles, the Mount Pleasant School District sends its $79.7 million 2024-25 budget to voters on Tuesday that incrementally adds to the academic programming but manages to comply with the tax cap with a maximum 2.81 percent levy increase. There is an estimated 2.73 tax rate increase for Mount Pleasant residents.

“The last couple of years has been about building a strong foundation,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Peter Giarrizzo. “The next couple of years is going to be about fortifying” the program.

Giarrizzo said staff additions next year will include a .2 position to support sixth grade English, a .5 speech teacher and a .6 foreign language teacher to begin the three-year phase-in of bringing foreign language to elementary school students.

The district is planning to make the current .5 coordinator of safety and security a full-time position next year and add another security guard at the middle school and high school campus, he said.

There are no staff reductions for next year. The district estimates that it will save money by hiring younger staff members to replace 13 staff members who will be retiring at the end of this year, Giarrizzo said. He estimated it could save as much as $40,000 to $50,000 for each replaced staff member.

Among the programmatic additions on tap for next year should district voters approve the budget would be the start of the implementation of foreign language in the primary grades that will eventually have students taking either Spanish or Italian starting in second grade. The district is also bolstering the math program in grades K-5 by using the Eureka Math 2 curriculum and introducing a strings program to the district’s music curriculum.

Giarrizzo said that starting next year, fourth- and fifth-graders will be able to explore which language they want to take when they enter sixth grade. Currently, sixth-graders consider what language to start taking in seventh grade.

In two years, the exploration will be moved down to grades 2-3, so those students can start in fourth grade while the third year of the phase-in will see kindergartners and first-graders weigh the same option to allow for the start of foreign language instruction in second grade.

It will also give the district time to adjust its foreign language curriculum at the high school, Giarrizzo said.

“The courseload will be much more sophisticated,” the superintendent said. “By the time they get to their junior and senior year, they’ll be pretty much in literature classes, college-level literature classes.”

There will also be an expansion of American Sign Language at the high school, which will remain another language option.

Reading and writing will continue to be a focus as the curriculum will be refined and there will be more collaboration between grade levels among faculty.

“What is important to me is that there be a district approach,” Giarrizzo said. “Teachers are working together, right now, on grade level but not necessarily across grade levels.”

A strings program that will eventually consist of instruction in violin, viola, cello and bass will be implemented. For next year, the budget includes a set of violins, Giarrizzo said.

“We’re one of the few districts in Westchester that does not have an orchestral program,” he said. “It’s going to take a little bit of time to build it, so we’re going to start in grade two.”

While year-to-year spending will increase by about $5.25 million, or just over 7 percent, about $2.3 million of that is a result of the district having settled a tax certiorari case with the Legion of Christ and being required to transfer that sum from a reserve fund, Giarrizzo said. The settlement is for $500,000 and the remaining $1.85 million will be used on necessary work around the district, including money for HVAC upgrades, he said.

Mount Pleasant is also expected to receive a nearly $855,000 increase in state aid. One factor in determining state aid is the steady to slight increase in enrollment in the district, Giarrizzo said. The current enrollment is 1,934 students, and is projected to increase slightly to 1,949 next year.

In the Board of Education race, three incumbents, President Michael Horan and board members Michael Griffin and Colleen Scaglione Neglia, are unopposed for the seats they currently hold.

Voting on the budget will take place at the Westlake High School gymnasium from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

































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